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The Joy of Publishing

Blessed with an eye-snaring cover, engaging content and an avuncular, yarn-spinning author, publishing Stories from Texas: Some of Them Are True has been an amazing ride from inception to the Fedexing off last week of the last case of the second printing (in less than three months).

I had heard WF Strong's segments on NPR's Texas Standard program and thought that a collection of his tales would not only fit perfectly in my line of Lone Star regional titles, but might could find a market. Tracking down his email address at UT Rio Grande Valley, the baritone-voiced and suitably hirsute communications professor quickly replied and let me know he had just been thinking of finding a publisher.

Over coffee or Dr Pepper at Book People in Austin a week or so later, we hashed out a common vision for the book, looked over various formats and discussed the works of Wyman Meinzer, the magnificent W Texas wildlife photographer whom he know.

I've been lucky with agreeable authors, and WF was one of those. He worked well with editor Amy Culbertson, and accepted changes recommended by Fort Worth historian Richard Selcer. Tom Johanningmeier gave a classic, appealing look to the inside page design, and graphic designer Jared Stone worked the Meinzer photo into a winning cover. Versa Press, the printer, did a superb job as always, giving the cover an amazing tactile feel with its overall varnish semi-gloss finish. Costs extra and takes an extra day, but worth the price and the wait.

Even if it didn't find a market, I'd be happy. Taking an idea and seeing it evolve into a bound book that is a solid read is what this endeavor is all about.

Getting Stories into Amazon was a breeze, first as an e-book, then as an original paperback with an affordable price point, $5-$10 or less than similar titles, in keeping with my business philosophy of producing a quality book, then charging less that competing titles. Barnes & Noble immediately approved the book but my distributor somehow had the wrong release date. Remedied, the chain ordered, and re-ordered for its Texas stores.

The reception was immediate and positive. Glenn Dromgoole gave it a rave in Lone Star Literary Life blog, and in papers that carry his reviews. The Houston Chronicle ran a long feature, picked up by the San Antonio Express-News. Texas Country Reporter's March segment on WF plugged the book, and Bob Phillips reran the piece when the book had hit stores. WF gave talks and signings from the Rio Grande and up through greater Houston.

In October, he'll be at Austin's Book People where this adventure began; Waxahachie for the Texas Country Reporter Festival, and then at the Texas Book Festival back in Austin.

My smarter older brother in Oregon keeps asking why I'm still working away at my wee publishing venture. And I tell him, it's because of people like Amy, Tom, and Jared -- not to mention my able assistant Joey Gabele, and photographer Ralph Lauer who has conjured up a slew of A-class cookbook cover photos. And, of course, inimitable authors like WF Strong.

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